Kid Cudi drops new album, old message

David Lee, Blogger

Scott Mescudi, better known as Kid Cudi, surprised fans Monday night when, in true Beyonce-like fashion, he released a new album with only two hours notice.

But Cudi doesn’t have anything resembling Beyonce’s universal appeal, and the resulting album, “Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon,” will cater to his ever-shrinking fan base while exiling casual listeners.

Cudi has always occupied a strange place in the rap game. He is a strangely emotional rapper, a self-conscious, contemplative lyricist who is not afraid to write about the inner workings of his mind. He paints a dark picture of his psyche with slow, ominous, pulsing production. On his first hit single, “Day ‘n’ Nite,”  the rapper repeatedly calls himself “the lonely stoner.”

In the public consciousness, Drake has usurped the role of the emotional rapper, broadcasting his music in a way that Cudi was never willing to do. What many see as commercialization, Cudi seems to see as compromise.

Cudi responded with some crazy decisions I still don’t quite understand. He told the world he didn’t have a passion for rapping, so he learned the guitar and formed a rock band. The resulting project, 2012’s “WZRD,” was as horrific as could be expected from someone who was just learning guitar. It earned 50 out of 100 points from Metacritic.

The real issue is that Cudi is a rapper at heart, no matter how much he wants to be a guitar player, but he is not clever or entertaining. His most popular song, by far, is the Steve Aoki remix of “Pursuit of Happiness” which takes Cudi’s slow-motion production and injects some electronic dance excitement. I remember watching him live when he headlined Governor’s Ball 2012. I tried so hard to enjoy myself as Cudi sang about his drug problems and the demons in his mind, but I just couldn’t get into it. It was a captivating experience, for sure, but I would not call it fun.

“Satellite Flight” brings back more of the same Cudi, the one who insists on convincing us that aura and artistry make up for the absence of lyrical ability.

Three of the songs on the ten-track collection are instrumentals – Cudi just gave up on rapping on them at all. When he does rap, there are mixed results. “Internal Bleeding” literally sounds like Cudi is dying of blood loss as he slurs his words.

But sometimes, Cudi actually pulls off the artistry that he so desperately wishes the public saw in him. “Balmain Jeans,” is a deep, sensual view of sexual intimacy while under the influence of drugs. It even overcomes Cudi’s own repeated tasteless innuendo, “Can I come inside your vortex.” “Return of the Moon Man,” is an epic instrumental track with a crunching sound that creates an atmosphere of smoky mystique.

Cudi was known as a Kanye West protege when he first arrived on the scene. It’s easy to see why. They are both convinced of their own genius, and they are both waiting for the general public to catch up with their vision. The only difference is that Cudi’s vision leads him to produce increasingly eerie and distant music.

Cudi is so full of potential and talent, but all I want is for his musical concepts to come down to Earth. Instead, as he’s proven again, he is the man on the moon.

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